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PTSD Symptom Severity and Alcohol Use among Firefighters: The Role of Emotion Regulation Difficulties

Objective Heightened rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and alcohol use have been documented among firefighters. Emotion regulation difficulties (ERD) are clinically relevant to both PTSD and alcohol use. Few studies have examined the role of ERD in the association of PTSD symptoms with alcohol use severity and alcohol use motives among firefighters. Thus, the present investigation examined the indirect effect of PTSD symptom severity on alcohol use severity and alcohol use motives through ERD. Methods The sample was comprised of 685 firefighters (Mage = 38.65, SD = 8.57, 93.6% male) recruited from an urban fire department in the southern U.S. to complete an online survey. Indirect effects were calculated using 10,000 bootstrapped samples. Effects were examined after accounting for years of fire service, occupational stress, trauma load (i.e., number of traumatic event types experienced); in models evaluating alcohol use motives as outcomes, other alcohol use motives (i.e., alternate motives subscales) were included as additional covariates. Results First, ERD explained the association of PTSD symptom severity with alcohol use coping motives (β = .01, SE = .003, 95% CI [.004-.01]). Furthermore, ERD did not significantly account for the association of PTSD symptom severity with alcohol use severity (β = .02, SE = .01, 95% CI [-.004-.04]), alcohol use enhancement motives (β = −.003, SE = .002, 95%CI [-.007-.000]), alcohol use social motives (β = .004, SE = .002, 95% CI [-.000-.01]), or alcohol use conformity motives (β = −.002, SE = .002, 95% CI [-.006-.02]). Conclusions Results demonstrated that, among firefighters, PTSD symptom severity is positively related to alcohol use coping motives through heightened ERD. Clinical implications and future directions are discussed.

Mental Health Clinician Practices and Perspectives on Treating Adults with Co-Occurring Posttraumatic Stress and Substance Use Disorders

Objective: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use disorders (SUD) commonly co-occur and represent a complex, challenging clinical comorbidity. Meta-analytic studies and systematic reviews suggest that trauma-focused treatments are more efficacious than non-trauma focused interventions for co-occurring PTSD/SUD. However, relatively little is known about mental health clinicians’ practices or preferences for treating co-occurring PTSD/SUD. The present study aimed to describe the current clinical practices of mental health clinicians who treat PTSD and/or SUD-related conditions and to assess interest in novel integrative treatments for PTSD/SUD. Methods: Licensed mental health clinicians (N = 76; M age = 39.59, SD = 8.14) who treat PTSD and/or SUD completed an anonymous online survey from April 2021 to July 2021. Results: The majority (61.8%) of clinicians reported using integrative treatments for PTSD/SUD. The most commonly used trauma-focused treatments were 1) Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT: 71.1%) and 2) Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE: 68.4%) for PTSD. Approximately half (51.3%) of clinicians endorsed using Relapse Prevention (RP) for SUD. The vast majority (97.4%) of clinicians were somewhat or very interested in a new integrative CPT-RP intervention, and 94.7% of clinicians believed patients would be interested in a CPT-RP intervention. In the absence of an available evidence-based integrative treatment using CPT, 84.0% of clinicians reported modifying extant treatment protocols on their own to address PTSD and SUD concurrently. Conclusions: The findings demonstrate mental health clinician support of integrative treatments for PTSD/SUD. The most commonly used trauma-focused intervention was CPT and clinicians expressed strong interest in an integrative intervention that combines CPT and RP. Implications for future treatment development are discussed.

Tobacco and Illicit Drug Use and Drug Use Disorders Among Employees of Businesses Affected by the 9/11 Attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City

Objective: To study the New York City area population after the September 11, 2001, 9/11 attacks, focusing on tobacco and drug use and drug use disorders. An abundance of research has identified the important mental health sequelae stemming from exposure to disasters, especially vulnerability to the development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive disorder (MDD). There also is a body of literature on the association of disaster exposure with alcohol use/misuse, but far less research on tobacco and other drug use/disorders. Methods: A terrorism-affected sample (N = 379) was assessed nearly 3 years after the attacks using structured diagnostic interviews, providing predisaster and postdisaster prevalence and incidence of tobacco and drug use, changes in tobacco and drug use, and predisaster and postdisaster prevalence and incidence of drug use disorders in relation to the 9/11 attacks. DSM-IV criteria were fully assessed using structured diagnostic interviews for psychiatric disorders including PTSD, MDD, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and alcohol and drug use disorders. Results: Tobacco use did not increase significantly, and no predictors of increased tobacco use could be found for any subgroups, including disaster trauma exposures. Drug use (largely cannabis) increased initially but decreased by 3 years after the attacks. Drug use disorders, which were associated with other psychiatric disorders, were rare and primarily began prior to 9/11. Conclusions: The overall lack of increase of tobacco use or predictors of increased use found after the disaster and the low rates of new drug use disorders suggest that universal screening for increased tobacco use and new drug use disorders by clinicians may have very low yield. Regardless, postdisaster settings provide suitable circumstances for general discussions about self-care including concern for increased tobacco use, avoiding drug use, and guidance on healthier means of managing stress than through substances. Additionally, because existing tobacco and drug use are endemic in populations, the postdisaster setting can serve as a reminder for clinicians to assess these problems generally and provide appropriate referrals when needed. Postdisaster circumstances offer opportunities to disseminate and promote public health messages and address issues of substance use and misuse.